Thank you

To my son’s teachers, TAs and everyone else involved in his school for the last 18 months.

Thank you.

Thank you for helping him be happy.

Thank you for always encouraging him to enjoy himself and do his best.

Thank you for listening to our concerns and showing us that we are all a team.

Thank you for understanding him.

Thank you for giving him a safe environment to grow from a baby into a boy.

Thank you for giving him the best possible start in his education.

Thank you for reassuring us that we are helping his education in the right way outside of school.

Thank you for making him star of the week, showing him that politeness goes a long way.

Thank you for challenging him when he needed to be and for supporting him when he struggled.

Thank you for always having a smile for him.

There are so many other things I could add, and no amount of words could ever express them more than just “THANK YOU” for everything.

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Unique gifts

Every morning is the same – a face appears in front of mine, followed by the biggest grin in the world, then a kiss, then those magical words “I love you daddy”.

OK… so sometimes that’s all preceded by shaking, prodding and “wake up daddy” (at the crack of dawn, I might add…), but you get the idea.

Then there are the times when he gets excited for bedtime because I’ll make up a story using the “story cube” app on my phone. As long as there’s a lock and a key and the story involves him on an adventure, he’s happy. That in turn makes me happy – I could’ve told the shortest, least inventive story in the world, but he always loves it, and I treasure those moments which are reserved for just the two of us. The more we make up stories together, the more I find myself looking for ways to make them exciting, but also to help them reinforce the security he has with us.

There are times, however, when he seems insecure, or at least, isn’t able to soothe himself. Times when his temper ramps up and we get towards a full meltdown. Times when he’s not got what he wanted,  or has misinterpreted something that’s been said.

It’s during those times that I rediscover the truly unique gift we have – the connection that often helps reinforce our relationship. For it’s in those moments that I need to help my son rediscover calm, re-centre himself and resolve the issues.

Sometimes a tight hug and counting slowly backwards can help.

Sometimes it’s a case of asking “how high” he is, and how can we help bring him back down to earth.

Sometimes it’s sitting there taking a hammering and not reacting.

Sometimes it’s lying next to him with an open hand ready for him to hold.

Sometimes it gets too much and (to my shame) I have to leave the room.

On two recent occasions, something instinctive kicked in and I was able to calm him much quicker than in the past, using a unique gift – distraction, coupled with another – curiosity.

On the first he was screaming and got himself in a loop. When in that state the only thing to do is to wait until he’s calm again to resolve any issues. The usual techniques weren’t working, which is when I saw a possible solution out of the corner of my eye – a tally counter (one of those devices where you press a button and it counts e.g. the number of cars going past). I started clicking away quite quickly, and it got his attention. Within seconds he was looking around for the source of the noise and was calming down. He used the clicker a few times – seeing if he could press up to 100, by the end of which he was back down to earth. The really positive thing was that he recognised the counter as a way to calm himself down, so for the next few days he kept it in his sights in case he needed it again.

Cue the weekend, and he had a meltdown at my father-in-law’s. Again the usual techniques weren’t working, so I picked him up and carried him outside to the fish pond – taking him out of the environment that had caused him to get heated, and distracting him by counting the fish in the pond.

Distraction and curiosity won through in both instances, helping my son regulate himself and recognise how to bring himself down if needed. After both, he said “daddy, I was angry, and then I use the clicker/counted the fish and I came back down” (or words to that effect). It astounds me that, at 5, he recognises that, and pleases me immensely that I’ve been the one on these occasions to help him do so.

My son is a truly unique gift for me, and I hope he sees me the same way.

 

When I were a lad…

I wrote this for my Dad on Fathers’ Day…

 

When I were a lad I looked up to you Dad, and now I’m a dad I still do.

You were, and are, everything I would like to be in a dad:

  • Cool
  • Calm
  • Reassuring
  • Supportive
  • A hero
  • Strong
  • A sounding board
  • Fair
  • Encouraging
  • Taxi
  • Ever reliable
  • Holder of the remote
  • Fun/funny

I now feel proud when someone says “you’re just like your Dad”.

If in life I can truly tick off any one of that list I’ll be proud.

I used to laugh at your “when I were a lad” stories, but now I appreciate them all the more when I share my memories with my son.  I now know that the memories we share are often those we hold dear, and help those we share them with understand more about our past. I feel privileged to know that my son will have happy memories because of the start and support in life you have given me.

Thank you for all you have done for me and my family, and thank you for all you continue to do.

Words can never truly express how lucky I feel to have you as a Dad.

Love always

A leap of faith

On Big Adoption Day, which is almost exactly 2 years since our son was placed in our home (hence just over 2 years since we met him for the first time), and a year since we had our celebration hearing, I’ve taken time to reflect on what an uncertain thing becoming an adopter can be.

Becoming an adopter takes several leaps of faith:

  • That your existing relationship is strong enough to get you through any challenges
  • That your support network will be available no matter what
  • That you can deal with whatever being an adopter can throw at you
  • That you’re not afraid of uncertainty

When we adopted,  we took all of these leaps, and more.

  • We placed our faith in our animals reacting well to the new arrival (or, at least not causing problems!). So much so that, had it not been the case, I’d already told our son’s social worker that if he didn’t get on with the animals/was allergic then he’d have to go back since they were here first! In hindsight, that was perhaps not the right thing to say (as I learned immediately I’d said it…), and fortunately we weren’t faced with such decisions.  Our animals have reacted brilliantly, particularly our dog who is our son’s best friend. They are pretty much inseparable – she looks out for him all the time and is quick to get to his side when he’s upset (although she also runs away if there’s any telling off being done – some loyalty!).
  • We reassured ourselves that we could cope with whatever was thrown at our newly extended family – that the uncertainty around our son’s future due to his diagnosis of FAS was something that we, along with our support network, could cope with. So far, so good. We’ve (well, my wife) arranged for his school to have training on FASD and have slowly educated those around us that, although he’s functioning in the same way as his peers now, that might change in the future. We’re starting to get to the age at which FAS becomes prevalent, and signs of how a child with FAS will cope with the future start to appear. Needless to say, we’re watching with baited breath – to see if his emotional and social development will continue in line with his peers, or whether he’ll need additional support to keep up. Regardless, we’re prepared to offer him support for as long as he needs it/we’re alive, whichever comes first.
  • We placed reliance on our support network always being there for us – each other; family, friends, employers, and professionals. We’ve found, however, that with the best will in the world it’s not worked out as we’d expected, so we’re changing our plans. We’re relocating to be closer to that vital support, and also to provide support in our own way to family members who need it. Having that proximity will make such a difference – we’ll feel more supported and be able to have more precious time back for our relationship.

Without doubt, at the time, the biggest leap of faith we took was to adopt a child with a diagnosis of FASD – with such uncertainty around his future we could have been forgiven for thinking again. But that’s the funny thing about adoption – as much as you can identify “issues” (there is no such thing as an adopted child without “issues” – they are placed for adoption for a reason) from a child’s past, or potential for difficulties in the future, that leap of faith is needed for you to truly discover that there is so much more to a child than a description on a profile. As adopters it is up to us to recognise that, to cherish our children and to give them all the love we can, no matter what. After all, that’s what makes our families special.

 

A love letter

From the moment I saw your smile

and the twinkle in your eyes

you were mine.

When all else seems hopeless

you can light up my heart

with a hug.

Without you I’m just a man

with you I’m more,

so much more.

My love grows stronger every day

more than yesterday 

less than tomorrow.

Together we can face anything 

in any place

at any time.

To my wife and my son

written for you

love always.

We’re special daddy…

Three years and one day ago today, adoption was something I was not willing to consider.

Three years ago today and that all changed. We had confirmation that our round of IVF had failed so that ended our chances of having a biological child.

We’d watched a documentary on adoption and had booked a long weekend away to get some time to think.

That weekend we relaxed, enjoyed time together and could have made a decision to stay like that forever – just the two of us without a care in the world  (except the dog and cats!).

Life would certainly have been very different, but somehow I just can’t imagine in what way.
The reason being that often it seems like there was no life before our little man came along – that he’s always been part of our lives.

True, we have ups and downs, highs and lows, and face a great deal of uncertainty in the future, but as he said to me tonight when I asked him what I should say when I talked to an adoption exploration evening tonight: “we’re special daddy”

Post adoption support 

One of the reasons we chose to adopt through Families That Last/After Adoption was because their family finding arm (Families That Last) evolved from what was originally just post adoption support (i.e. After Adoption).

We figured that they had been around for a long time specifically providing that support, so as and when we needed it we could be pretty sure they’d be there for us.

The other reason for choosing them was that the social workers we met in the first place were fabulous.

Although we hoped not to need any support,  we knew it would be there. 

As it is, we’ve not been desperate for any support – although they have been helpful in pursuing a few avenues on our behalf.

Strangely,  one of those offers of support came about because our family finding social worker (who in theory had done her job once wegot our adoption order and so could rest on her laurels) got in touch having read my blogs. She reached out to check we were OK and to see what support the agency could provide now, or what they might’ve been able to do in the past.

To be offered support without having to seek it was amazing and really cements our opinion of the agency.

It’s for that reason that I volunteer to tell our story to prospective adopters – through prep groups, information evenings and blogging – and intend to continue doing so as long as I’m wanted.